Welcome to Night Vale: Heathenous Podcast, or Christian Commentary?
A friendly desert community where the sun is hot, the moon is beautiful, and mysterious lights pass overhead as we all pretend to sleep. Welcome to Night Vale.”
This phrase beautifully sums up the premise of the podcast based around the “odd little town” of Night Vale. For a more in-depth introduction to the show, go and read Joshua Baker’s article from last semester. Go on. I’ll wait.
Good, you’re back. Do you feel like you have a grasp on what Night Vale is and who Cecil Palmer is? Good. We can continue. The Night Vale Presents network, run by the authors of Welcome to Night Vale, Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, not only produces the Welcome to Night Vale podcast, but also the Welcome to Night Vale live shows, among other things. I’m here to tell you about one specific live show. Their most recent one: All Hail.
Baker mentions in his article “a giant, mind controlling, glowing cloud.” This cloud is introduced in Episode 2. If you want to know what Cecil Palmer says about the Glow Cloud in that episode, that link will take you to the 32-second clip. Go on. I’ll wait. . . .
Okay, you’re back. Excellent. In the clip, Cecil describes the Glow Cloud’s intent. This theme continues throughout the rest of the podcast. All Hail pushes back on these assumptions about the Glow Cloud in some very interesting ways.
The show starts out with Cecil beginning his day’s broadcast. He mentions the Glow Cloud’s presence on the radio station’s broadcast tower. When he changes the frequency of the broadcast, the booming roar of the Glow Cloud can be heard. Cecil, as usual, decides to carry on the show, hoping that the Glow Cloud will eventually go away. However, as the show goes on, the Cloud’s roar gets louder and odd things start to happen. Cecil realizes that what he thinks he’s saying isn’t what is being broadcast to viewers. Even his guests on the show aren’t saying what he thinks they’re saying. When he plays segments back, there is just a long monologue of praise to the Glow Cloud.
Once Cecil realizes this, the Glow Cloud takes over Cecil’s body. It has some things to say to Cecil’s listeners, the entire town of Night Vale. The premise of the Glow Cloud’s talk is that he doesn’t want to be worshiped. He just wants to have a conversation. One of the more iconic things I remember from the show is the Glow Cloud saying something along the lines of,
When you hear a booming voice in your head your first instinct is to worship it.”
The Glow Cloud just wants a friend. He also told the listeners that all he wants them to do is good. He wants them to go out into the world and do good.
It was in this moment that the show became deeply Christian to me. It made me realize a few things about my faith. The entire time Cecil was leading the listeners through a “Glow Cloud oath,” I felt odd proclaiming the Glow Cloud as basically God. But once the Glow Cloud got a say, I realized that God can be found in anything. Even a Glow Cloud that drops dead animals on Night Vale (“IT’S A MEDICAL CONDITION!”). God, like the Glow Cloud, doesn’t want us to worship Him out of fear that He’ll destroy us, or send us to hell. God wants to be friends with us. He just wants us to listen to his voice, as opposed to us blindly worshiping it. Most importantly, God wants us to go out into the world and do good. As the Glow Cloud said:
Doing good is not not doing wrong.”
Doing good is an action. We are called as Christians, and as followers of the Glow Cloud, to seek out ways to do good things for other people. Blindly worshiping something we may not have taken the time to truly understand. All hail, indeed.